Let's Talk About Race, Baby.
Back in '91, Hip Hop legends, Salt N Pepa shook up America when they released the controversial song, "Let's Talk About Sex." The song was a wake up call to a mainstream America that was reluctant to talk about sex even in the face of a growing AIDS crisis and teen pregnancy epidemic. This month, Durham will tackle the "other" issue: race.
On October 8th, the Museum of Life and Science will host the exhibit, "Race: Are We So Different" that will address the origin of race in both anthropological and sociological terms. There will also be a series of community discussions surrounding the issue through the end of the exhibition, next January, dealing with an issue that is rarely discussed in an open and honest minor. Usually, any racial discussion that does not end with a group of folks sitting around quoting Martin Luther King speeches and locking arms singin' "We Shall Overcome" is not exactly welcomed in this town. Although, racial conflicts effect all cultures, in America it has been mostly black and white.
So, where do we begin tackling the taboo issue? We start at the same place you start when your five year old comes home from kindergarten and asks "where do babies come from." We start at the beginning. However, we have to make the decision whether to tell the awful truth or send our kids down the road of misinformation by telling them that "the stork brings them."
It must be noted that there was not a beef between the races before antiquity as historians have pointed out that the early Greeks actually had respect for the Ethiopians and Egyptians. It was not until the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that racial inferiority began to be used to justify the enslavement of Africans. After that period, pseudo-scientific theories were constructed to prove the superiority of one race over the other. While Johann Blumenbach is credited with dividing humanity into racial groups, prior to that it was, Carl Von Linnaeus that started attributing natural ability to skin color.
Besides serving as the rationale for racial oppression, there has been the fear of race mixing (miscegenation). The "browning of America" has been such a fear of white folks that the one drop rule was created to establish that one drop of black blood would make even the whitest, white dude want to watch Black Entertainment Television.
Has this changed in recent years? Only in Hip Hop. Artists such as KRS have long argued that the "great American melting pot concept" only exists in the world of rap music where little white kids have posters of Lil Wayne on their bedroom walls" and black kids download Eminem songs on Itune. But outside of Rap World things have not changed much.
So, why do we still feel so uncomfortable discussing the issue ? It's just like when, after being chastised for kissing a boy at school, your 12 year old daughter, asks you about your first time.
Race puts us smack dab in the center of the storm where we have to weather questions like "do you hate all white people" or "have you ever used the N Word ?"
What happens when we don't talk about sex? Just go to the Durham Health Department or to Northgate or Southpoint Mall and count all the teenage girls pushing strollers. What happens when we don't talk about race, just take a look at the polarization taking place across the country.
So, yes Durham. Let's talk about race, baby.
For more information about the "Race Are We Different" exhibit visit
Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com. He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or firstname.lastname@example.org